Lab-grown diamonds were once seen as a foolproof option for those looking for sustainable alternatives to mined diamonds – that was until we began to look at the evidence. What many studies have shown is that though the environmental impacts of lab-grown diamond creation were significantly less than mined natural diamonds, energy used and carbon emissions produced were often far higher (2-3x in some cases). This is exactly why Clear Neutral was created - but we’ll get into that later.

The Rise and Fall of Lab-grown Diamonds

The popularity of lab-grown diamonds can be attributed to a few factors, but mostly to savvy millennials and Gen Z who want their diamonds affordable, and sustainable. Not only are lab-grown diamonds significantly more reasonably priced than natural diamonds [around 60-70% cheaper], but they generally have fewer social and environmental risks – at least that’s what most lab-grown jewellers would like you to think.

Lab-grown diamonds, as the name suggests, are grown in laboratories that look more like factories than sterile labs with white coat-clad scientists. Many brands in the lab-grown diamond space use deceptive words like “green” or “clean” to describe their products, which upon closer inspection isn’t exactly accurate.

The Impact of Lab-grown Diamonds

Growing lab diamonds is an energy-intensive process. The processes are called HPHT (high pressure, high temperature), and CVD (carbon vapour deposition). Both aim to emulate the natural environment of diamonds growing in the Earth’s mantle. HPHT starts with graphite and emulates the conditions of how a natural diamond is formed, whereas the CVD process begins when a seed diamond plate (a very thin slice of a diamond) is placed into a chamber where methane and hydrogen are deposited onto the seed diamond to form the bigger stone. Both of these involve temperatures above 1000°C  [roughly 20% of the temperature of the sun’s surface]. The energy needed to power this process is considerable, with more energy needed depending on the size of the diamond and the age and efficiency of the machinery used in the facility. This need to constantly flex as the industry develops new and more sustainable ways to grow diamonds; meaning those involved with production cannot be complacent about their processes. As the industry becomes bigger, the once traceable, reliable supply chains of lab-grown diamonds become murky as technology becomes better, and new diamond growers enter the space who are simply out to make a quick buck.

A report by The Natural Diamond Council said over 60% of lab diamonds are produced in China and India, where the majority of grid electricity is generated from burning coal. Not only is it harmful for lab diamonds to use nonrenewable energy, but this is also responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions from lab diamond production. The general disregard for the environmental impact of lab-grown diamonds becomes increasingly concerning as the output of the industry increases year on year - by 2030, the global output of lab-grown diamonds is expected to be nearly 19.2 million carats.

The Clear Neutral Promise

The nature of lab diamonds means the due diligence process surrounds the use of energy, and ensuring suppliers aren't using free or child labour to do the cutting and polishing of stones. Back to the jewellers who use misleading positive language to describe lab-grown diamonds but have very little evidence to show for it. This greenwashing, in other words, pulling the wool over their consumers’ eyes, is no longer good enough for the vast majority of people who say they would boycott a company if they discovered they made misleading claims around sustainability. This is where Clear Neutral enters the picture. Diamonds that enter our process come with a certificate to confirm we’ve calculated the energy used to create your diamond, and that it has been offset through the purchase of renewable energy credits. Basically, we do all the work to make sure you have the most sustainable lab-grown diamond possible.

We support projects like the development of renewable energy plants in India which go towards improving the energy grid mix for many industries - not just diamond production. This means that by supporting our certified jewellers, you’ll be helping us fund projects to make lab-grown diamonds cleaner for everyone - as well as improving the overall energy grid mix of India where 90% of the world’s natural diamonds are mined, polished or cut. It’s unrealistic to assume the fine jewellery industry and consumers will one day side completely with lab-grown diamonds, but by committing to renewable energy sources in the country, we’re helping the development of the industry where it matters the most.